SANTIAGO – 117 victims of sect leader Paul Schäfer in the notorious Colonia Dignidad are preparing a lawsuit against the Chilean state. They will be suing for kidnapping, slavery, and forced labor. The lawsuit will be filed in July.
For 45 years, prisoners and sect members in the German enclave had to perform hard labor. During the years of the civil-military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the colony was also used as a torture center for the intelligence services of the late dictator.
Winfried Hempel, a lawyer who represents 117 of the victims, told Cooperativa news outlet that he would sue the state for kidnapping, slavery, and forced labor, seeking “one million dollars compensation per victim.”
In terms of number of victims represented and the amount of compensation sought, the lawsuit will be the biggest ever filed against the state by former Colonia Dignidad members.
Cooperativa spoke with the Association for Dignity and Human Rights Colonia Dignidad about the upcoming lawsuit. Gabriel Rodriguez, a member of the organization, said, “It seems good that the Chilean state is sued for ignoring the abuses of victims of Colonia Dignidad. Chile looked away for more than 45 years while abuse and slavery happened every day.”
Colonia Dignidad: An Open Wound
The former German enclave remains an open wound in Chile. Last month, the German government announced that victims of the colony would receive compensation “out of moral responsibility,” for the role West Germany played in the abuse and torture center.
The country however refused to prosecute Paul Schäfer’s deputy, Hartmut Hopp, as the prosecutor in the city of Krefeld said sufficient wrongdoing to justify a trial could not be established. A lawyer for the victims filed a complaint against the decision.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.